Councilman Chris Cate speaks at the San Diego City Council inauguration ceremony. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

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Now-former San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate was the last Republican elected official in City Hall.

His successor, Kent Lee, serves District 6 as a Democrat, making the City Council a matching set along with fellow Dem mayor, Todd Gloria.

Throughout his two terms, Cate says local leaders have become more courageous — willing to flirt with taboo issues like the coastal height limit, trash pick-up charges and vacation rentals.

“People are more willing to touch those third rails of politics, at least locally here in San Diego. And maybe not so much fear of consequences,” Cate said.

But as discussed with Voice of San Diego’s host Scott Lewis in this exit-interview style podcast, there’s one monstrous issue that acts like whatever the opposite of a third rail is: homelessness.

When elected in 2014, Cate says homelessness wasn’t even on the short list of issues for his district. But it was key in Lee’s campaign as the crisis has fully gripped not only District 6, but the entire region.

“If you look at the data, the problem’s not getting better. I mean, there are more people on the streets than being housed every single month. And the numbers support that,” Cate said.

Lewis and Cate also discussed the future of the Republican party. While the region’s largest city is getting bluer by the year, small city Republicans picked up mayoral seats in the November election.

“They’re a known quantity. They have personal relationships with residents and voters and have been able to expand on that and produce quality campaigns,” he said. “With the right candidates willing to do the work, walk, and make the calls, a good Republican candidate can win.”

And you gotta ask…

Lewis: “We used to talk about you as a potential candidate for mayor. Is that something you’d consider? That’d be a race in ’24.”

Cate: “Absoutely not.”

Extra credit: Cate was featured in a podcast episode from our San Diego 101 series I loved — A Short History of San Diego Politics. It’s a bangin’ 24-minute recap of 18 years’ worth of local political drama. Hear it here or get San Diego 101 wherever you cast pods.

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Nate John

Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at

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